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Pico Projectors - Pocket Projectors - Overview For This Projector Guide 2

Posted on October 1, 2010 by Art Feierman

The other AAXA projector Tony reviewed, is the Pico L1 projector which is one of the, if not, the first, laser light engine powered pico projector to ship. The other laser based pico that I'm aware of, is Microvision's Show WX and we waited a very long time to get one in for last year's report, but they still hadn't shipped. Apparently they are starting to ship, or have already, but my last attempt to get a unit in for review went nowhere. No review units they said. Oh well. Read Tony's take on the L1 pico projector. Betweeen price and other aspects, lasers are expensive. They offer some trade-offs, but so far, little advantage except perhaps, that you don't have to focus, but, again, they are pricey. Until I see a compelling reason, or a specialized application (perhaps projecting a sharp and very bright two inch image onto some surface), I have to consider them part expensive novelty. Not that the L1 isn't capable, but why spend the money? Laser engines may well achieve price parity with LED, then what. Tony points out in his review of the L1, that you do get that razor sharp, but sparkly, look of a laser. Interesting at first, but the novelty wears off.

Finally we look at the 3M MPro150 which is definitely a bit larger than the small Optoma and the two AAXA pico projectors. The 3M MPro 150 has one of those easy grip (think hammer grip) surfaces, and it definitely looks like it can survive a little more of a beating than any of the others.

Multimedia players abound this year as a built in feature. We're seeing some improvement in resolution, a few with HDMI inputs (we're getting serious now, I think), plus more inputs in general. I'd say generation two leaves gen 1 in the dust.

Everyone seems to have their own definition of what falls into the pico class. Certainly it's no longer having a projector small enough to fit "comfortably into your shirt pocket". Most have seemed to grow since last year. Sure, all the picos we look at here can probably be stuffed into a shirt pocket, but would ruin the pocket. The Optoma PK301 might fit, and nothing sort of a Pocket (book) is going to hold the LG and its power supply. It may be small, but, it's a large pocket projector, and it dwarfs all the pico projectors.

For our purposes, we'll define a pico projector as under 0.75 pounds (about 340 gms). Most are well less than that. On the other hand, I can see larger projectors - pocket class, getting down close to 0.75 pounds, in future generations and still be way too large to be picos. So, we have a number to work with.

Eventually, they said at the Projection Summit in 2009, that in 2012, that there could be 30 million picos sold - but the vast majority would be integrated into other devices. We shall see.

At that Projection Summit, lots of numbers were tossed about. The high numbers were in the 30 million units range for 2012. Today, though, most picos are stand alone projectors and their numbers are the tiniest fraction of "millions". On the other hand, I sure wouldn't mind a projector built into my iPhone (maybe it can double as a flash for the camera. Consider: My HD camcorder has an LED light for night illumination.) It should be interesting to see how pico projection engines get integrated into larger devices, and if they can hit those impressive sales numbers.

Pocket Projectors Overview For This Projector Guide

OK, with pico projectors being loosely defined as being under 0.75 pounds (none of these are that heavy), that makes Pocket Projectors above 0.75 pounds, but really over a pound. When someone brings out a 13 ounce Pocket projector, I'll rethink the matter. The question is, how much heavier and larger still qualifies? Bulk really is the difference, rather than weight. A few years ago, InFocus was offering an 1100 lumen projector that weighed in at only 1.9 pounds. The LG we're reviewing here, for example, actually weighs more than that old InFocus, when you count in the weight of the LG's separate power brick. Most of the new Pocket projectors are coming out at 100 lumens or more.

A touch of history. Go back a few years, to Mitsubishi's PK series, which I think of as the first pocket projectors to garner some attention.The PK20 only measured about 30 lumens (claimed 50), compared to the LG's 270 lumen claim (talk about progress). The PK20, however, could run on batteries, something almost no pocket projectors do these days.

The LG is still a size smaller than any of the smallest "traditional" projectors. The other defining quality (at least for this report), is that Pocket Projectors - (and Pico projectors) can be defined as extremely small projectors that use a solid state light source (LED or laser). That's opposed to the projectors using traditional hundred dollar+ lamps (that needs replacing). The old InFocus I mention is one of the smallest and lightest "traditional projectors." We're just starting to see solid state light sources coming to business projectors. At some point, some of those will be the smaller ones and the Pocket projectors will merge with traditional.

So, the bottom line for a Pocket Projector - for purposes of our discussion: Projector itself under 2 pounds, solid state light source, small physical footprint,

I've touched on each of the projectors, time to get more organized. Here are a list of highlights, for your consideration:

Pico Projectors: Highlights

  • About the size of a pack of cigarettes, but many different shapes, some less than 1/2 inch thick
  • Use Solid state light sources - LED or Laser - instead of a traditional projection lamp
  • Resolution of these projectors remains below that of typical business or home projectors but higher resolution, on average, than last year's pico projectors
  • Most can run 1 hour or more on their rechargeable battery, and recharge in about 4 hours or less
  • All the pico projectors we've seen have a composite video source
Click Image to Enlarge
  • Most now have a computer input (and many with HDMI this year)
  • Multimedia players appearing on more pico projectors this year
  • Memory card slots and USB also becoming fairly common, results in lots of different devices becoming compatible
  • Picture quality - notably color - on some picos is much better than what we saw last year.
  • Pico projectors are definitely a blast, whether they are bright enough for your presentations?
  • Smaller than conventional projectors
  • Brightness - far more capable than pico projectors, for presentations, and...
  • Brightness - not as bright as "full-sized" projectors, but more than capable with 100-300 lumens
  • Typically have LED lightsource - last as long as device - no replacement cost
  • Normally have a separate power brick (with some real weight)
  • Higher resolution than pico projectors
  • Most do not have internal battery, require AC
  • Can be expensive - the very bright LG HX300G has an MSRP of $799!

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